EP 030

Helping Others — How We Approach Success

In episode 30 of the MOS podcast, Mitch, Matt, and Mike discuss the history and development of Bulb Digital and reflect on their problem-solving journey while discussing the history of Bulb!

They talk the challenges they've faced, including the gap between people who need strategy upfront and those who need help with specific problems, along with their biggest goal: helping people and their businesses 🙌

Let us know what you think of today's episode! Your feedback means a lot to us.

Episode Links
Hosted By
Mitch Herrema
Matt Dressel
Mike Bodell
Produced By
Benjamin Eizenga
Edited By
Eric Veeneman
Music By
Eric Veeneman


Mitch (00:05):

Hey everyone, welcome back to Make Others Successful, a podcast where we aim to make you successful in your workplace by sharing stories, insights, and strategies that we use in our daily work. And yeah, hopefully that helps make you successful and you make others successful. Today is a little bit of a weird topic, but we think it's helpful in this point in time of where we are with you as an audience and we want to talk through it so that we can effectively make you successful in the end. So the topic is a little bit of history behind where we have come from and sort of our basis for where we built this business or the type of work that built this business, and then figuring out how we built an audience for these types of things, like what you're listening to right now and how we help the people who want more help than just listening to something like this and how we can make that accessible for those people and really just help as much as that we can.


So we've been through a lot of different iterations over the years and I imagine going to be an always evolving thing, but we kind of want to talk through some of that history, where we're at now, what our line of thinking is, and effectively throw it over the wall to you and hear from you. And then hopefully it's not all about us. Hopefully it's something that you can relate to from your daily work if you're trying to make things better for your end users or people outside of your company. Just figuring out the right balance of how to help but make things accessible. And yeah, strike a good balance there. So to get started, we're going to talk a little bit about our history and where we came from. I'm going to throw it over to Matt and Mike here. They have the basis of what started Bob, and then I came in later, so I'll join then.

Matt (02:09):

Yeah, so I mean the reality is one of the things that both Mike and I have been very successful throughout our career is doing is helping people solve a particular problem in a technical way. So somebody has a challenge, an application, a solution that they want implemented. We're really good at designing, architecting, and then implementing that solution. However, there's a lot of other people that say they do the same thing. And when you talk about that and we talk to peers and other people about what it is that is different about us because the feedback we got from people when we work with us is you guys are different. The way that you work, the way that you talk to people is different than what everybody else that says they're doing The same thing does. We started to really understand that our differentiator, the thing that makes us different and how we accomplish the same task as other organizations is really our way of approaching that content and approaching what it is.


And to get into a little bit of that, we have to talk a little bit about what type of projects we were taking and that kind of thing, but it's really this transformation from they want my help solving a particular thing that they believe I'm an expert in to. I am going to help them understand their problem and understand the best way to solve it. And it's a flip in how that works. So I think a great example of that is somebody who comes to us and asks for that, I want external sharing. I fix external sharing. I used to use OneDrive and now I'm using SharePoint and I can't figure any of it out. We could definitely solve that problem. I can go in and twiddle your settings and everything else, but four months from now you're going to have the same problem again. You don't really understand how you should be thinking about external sharing, how you should be thinking about doing those things. And that is where we almost never can do a project where we don't have that conversation and that was our differentiator.

Mike (04:04):

I was going to say the analogy for me, if any of you are familiar with it, have you ever seen maybe that your professor in college showed up with it? It's a black box and it's got a string coming out of either side and when you pull the string to the one way, the other string moves, but not at the same rate as that one. And when you pull it the other way, it does the opposite and the task is figure out what's inside the box. And so you do all of the things that you can to try to figure out why that is the way that it is. You shake it, you listen to it, right? Maybe you smell it right. You try to figure out what is the thing that's going on in there? Did it smell

Mitch (04:39):


Mike (04:40):

Maybe it did. It depends on your professor. But the point of that is to say that whenever we've approached problems, we don't always know all of the answers, but we will probe and prod and figure out,

Mitch (04:53):

Oh my gosh, they do that to me too.

Mike (04:55):

Yeah, we jiggle the handle, right? I use that terminology a lot, jiggle the handle and learn from each thing that you do until you understand it at a higher level or at a deeper level. And we don't give up. I don't think there's ever been a problem that we've run across where we just threw up our hands and said, let's call somebody else to solve it for us. We genuinely are curious by nature and we love solving problems, and so we like to dive in that way.

Mitch (05:25):

Yeah, I used to joke, they're tier three support for everybody. There's no hire. They usually figure it out. So it, we used to call it the Matt and Mike show that was Vault Digital, and so it was large implementation projects, people paying thousands and thousands of dollars to do this big thing, and we started to realize that wasn't exactly where we wanted to be or what were some of the shifts that

Matt (05:55):

The problem was for anyone who knew us and knew what we did with our team, it was an easy sell. They knew who we were, they understood what we would bring to the table, and it was a no brainer. If it's someone that doesn't know us at all, they don't understand what we can provide and we aren't good at talking about that. We weren't even good at understanding what that is to start with. So it was a sales problem, a growth problem. How do we get in a place where we can compete with these other organizations when they wanted you to do an RFP for a big $4 million project? I can't put down who I am in an RFP, and quite frankly, a lot of those places aren't looking to buy what I am providing, even though they might need what I'm providing. It's not what their matrix of things is really talking about. And so especially

Mitch (06:54):

If you're like, there's only two people in the company or three, they're going to want a sizeable team, they might have some metrics around what right fit criteria is.

Matt (07:03):

I mean, yeah, well, some of it's the size of the team, but it's also what they're looking for. They think they already know everything they need to be successful. They think they already have all of the stuff figured out for what they need, and they just need you to cross the t's dot the i's, which we can do to be clear, we don't have a problem doing that, but we oftentimes want to know more, and when we get into it, we have a conversation about what is the best way to go about this. Yeah,

Mike (07:32):

I think you said it started as kind of a sales challenge that we were trying to solve for ourselves, but I think we asked another question in that process, which was something like, well, what are we really trying to do at the end of the day? Is it really that we want to sell another project or five more projects this year and make more money? And we actually came to a different conclusion, which was we asked, is it possible to help more people and how do we maximize the number of people that we actually help

Matt (08:01):

And the impact we have

Mike (08:02):

And the impact that we have? And so it's the make other successful so that they make others successful. It's that rippling effect. And so when we asked that question, we realized, wait a minute, there's a whole lot of people in the world that if exposed to our approach, the way that we attack problem solving, they would benefit and in turn, our impact goes further then beyond just a project that we do for you, right?

Mitch (08:29):

Yeah. Our circle of reach was very small when we just do an implementation project for someone and then it's done and then we move on to the next thing. So we said, how do we grow that circle? And so we started to do things like blogs. I sat Mike down in front of a camera and said, let's talk about power apps, and it was a rinky-dink setup, and the rest is history. It's come a long ways and it's been fun, but that developed another problem for us that I'll say we are still trying to figure out, frankly, this is us pulling back the curtain on our business. We don't have it all figured out, and so this is us just talking about it. The thing that we struggled with is when we start talking about that content, it pulls in different types of people, different audiences.


One of those audiences is the doers, the people who want the technical help that are just trying to learn how to do something, they're looking at our content as an instructional, they do that thing and they move on. That is effectively as much as we could do for that audience. And then we always sort of tried to straddle this line of, okay, can we do this technical help stuff but also sprinkle in strategy or maybe on occasion just have strategic in nature content and that isn't as clickbait, it's not as trendy or attractive to people. They might not exactly be Googling for the exact thing that we're talking about. And so that to us always felt like, oh, it has less legs to really do something. And so it created this thing of, I feel like that stuff is worth it, but more people are watching this thing. How do we make this sustainable to the point where it might not bring us a big project, but is there additional income that it can generate for us? So we started to Yeah, go ahead. Yeah,

Mike (10:34):

We're brainstorming some ideas. The thing that's popping into my mind is what is different about how we want to go about this versus let's say a training program or a training curriculum,

Mitch (10:46):

Right? Yeah, and we've talked about training

Mike (10:48):

Before and we've talked about that before, and I think training is useful and valuable, but it doesn't do the same thing as coming alongside someone and walking them through solving a problem.

Matt (10:59):

Our problem stems primarily from the best way to have an impact on an entire organization is to change organizational culture across the organization and impact the organization as a whole, not one person or not one group or one area. It's to change the way the organization thinks about technology, which is why we talk about modern workplace and why we talk about these topics that we have that are pretty broad in nature. We believe strongly in that. I believe strongly in that if we can get with an organization and they can understand what we're talking about with all of those things at a core level, it's going to transform their business. They're going to be a better business overall. I believe in that very strongly. I think everybody on our team believes in that very strongly. However, that's a big pill to swallow and people don't even understand.


It's very difficult to explain to people and make them understand what that potential impact could be, especially when somebody says, I just have this problem I want fixed. And so for a while we struggled with, well, we need to redirect them and we need to solve the root problem, which almost there's almost always a root problem, but sometimes that root problem isn't worth fixing right now yet maybe even ever. Maybe it's not a real problem, financial problem for the business. Maybe it's not a real cultural problem within the business, but we don't have a way or a mechanism by which we can deliver upon that. We go quickly from YouTube and free resources to $15,000 engagements. It's a huge jump, and that's not doing us what we want to do justice. We want to help people. If there's a small group of people who need and deserve the $15,000 engagements, the a hundred thousand dollars engagements, the quarter million, million dollar engagements to transform what they're doing, that's great, but if that's a small group, how do we fill that space in between of people who are coming to us and saying, yep, I get what you're saying.


I like the way you're thinking about this stuff, but I just need this thing solved and how do we do it in a way that balances the strategy thinking that they probably do need with the doing activity that they also need? We get feedback all the time about people choose not to go with us on a discovery engagement of, it's not direct feedback always, but it's always so when we get through the discovery, this problem will be solved. No, you'll have a plan to solve the problem and it just kind of falls off. Right. Okay. Truthfully, I think this is the big point is it is okay, even if we believe strongly that it is worth it and they'll have a better outcome in the long term, and that's been proven out by our track record with other customers, it's okay if that's where they need to start.


What's not okay is right now we don't have a good way to deal with that. It turns into, well, you only want the help to figure out how to share. Well, that's maybe a two hour thing to show you how to share this one file this one time. That's not super valuable to me, and it's not super valuable to the person that's going to receive that information because yes, we're going to fix the problem, the specific problem, but there's a much larger problem that they need to understand goes back to training. We could offer training as a solution to this problem. We aren't staffed for training. We don't have the people to continually update the training all the time on the very, very vast portfolio of applications and solutions that we're involved in and working in. It is just not something feasible to do at that scale, and so we needed to, or we need to find something else, find another way that bridges that gap between the free or really low cast options, guidebooks, those types of things, and these official engagements, full-time projects that we're doing.

Mitch (15:22):

Can I just say too, it's a little, tiring probably isn't the right word, but I'm going to make it work. It's tiring for someone. For me, when someone comes in saying, Hey, I have this thorn in my side, can you pull it out? And I'll say, actually, you don't have that thorn. That's not your real thorn. You have this other big problem. It feels disingenuous sometimes, even though it might be true, and it reminds me of on the office where Oscar is known for being the actually guy and he just spins around in the chair and says, actually, we don't want to be the actually guy. We're hoping that this content provides the basis for the actually so that someone is a little bit farther down that path by the time they ring us up. And that's challenging when we say, oh, let's make a YouTube video that we'll get a bunch of views and then people click on buttons that they might not need to be clicking on already. So we're figuring out what level of wall we should have and how we should make things accessible to people. The way we first tried to tackle that was like, Hey, can we come up with a course for power apps? And we've talked about that before, didn't do super well. So we literally pulled it because like Matt said, things changed and then the interface didn't look the same and we didn't want to spend the time to update it.

Mike (16:47):

But honestly, training is not super rewarding in my perspective from either side. If you're receiving the training, great, maybe you get a certificate at the end of it, but what did you really do? That's why I want to figure out how to get connected to the problem in a way that makes sense for everyone involved.

Mitch (17:06):

So because that's hard to scale, we said, what would it look like to build a framework of our thinking? And we've talked about our guidebook before. If you need help building a more connected team, we have a guidebook that walks through all of our internal communication suggestions and recommendations, but that still can feel just like this is a bunch of information for you to just figure out, and it might not walk alongside someone through that process. And we're trying to improve that, and we still believe in that, but there's still that I want it to go one step further that we're sort of trying to out,

Matt (17:51):

And the challenge with taking something like the guidebook and marrying it with delivering on somebody's problem is you have all this content that may not seem very relevant to the person who we're working with. That's solved in a lot of our discovery and roadmap initiatives, kickstarts, because we do a lot of interviews and we talk to people about their individual problems. We get a litany of all of the problems, and the goal of that is so that we can see all of the problems in a pretty comprehensive way and make recommendations about what they should be really doing to solve those problems. When you're doing a guidebook, there's not that personal. Well,

Mike (18:32):

They have to make the connection themselves. That's not always easy

Matt (18:35):

To do. Correct. And on top of it, if they're like, oh, I want to solve this problem, and they get through all of the content and they can't make that connection, it leaves people wanting more, not wanting more of our services, but feeling like, oh, I didn't make the connection. I don't know what to do with this. And so we really want to find something that balances, that balances taking an individual specific problem that someone has and the content that we had and the thinking and the mindset around that, and marry them together in a way that is digestible, concise, and delivers something for them. On the other side, we want someone who comes to us with a problem with teams to be able to buy something from us that is not crazy expensive. That gets them the mindset, and so it's not just us responding to their specific issue, but it's us delivering the mindset and thinking that they should have around topic-based communication around how they manage this content and manage this system, this technology with, oh, you're having a problem with how projects are managed within teams. Here's some recommendations. Let's talk about, let's do a session where we talk about that and get into that in detail. So that's really where right now, today, that is what we're looking at. When we think about the spectrum of services that we're offering, that's an area that we're really focused on trying to figure out and solve and come up with a better way to manage that.

Mitch (20:13):

So maybe to relate it to the listener, leave a comment or something, reach out to us. If there has been a time where you're like, I feel like this thing is good, but it doesn't pull out the thorn in my side. If there was something like a workshop or something that facilitated that and that would be a no brainer for me, we would love to know. That would be so much validation of,

Matt (20:35):

And I don't need you to put your email address down and nobody's going to call you and be like, Hey, but it's the validation thing. We see this as a potential problem and we're looking to invest it. It would be really great to hear from people that they think it's worth it or that resonates with them about what they were experiencing when they consumed part of our content. We've gotten feedback about, I love the video, but I really wanted something more, and then we kind of put them, send them towards the private coaching and they go, well, that's really good. I got a lot out of the project coaching, but then I have to sign up for another one and another one. We have gotten feedback that leads us down this path, but it would be great, like you said, if anybody listening has felt that to let us know. I'm

Mitch (21:18):

Also interested to know if anyone listening can relate to this. Have you been in a situation where you want to help people but you can't find the right exact fit to help them in a way that you feel good about that both parties feel really good about in a trusting way and just wondering if, I know this problem is not original. Someone has been through this before where they're used to doing work and they figure out how to productize it and put it somewhere for someone to buy, and that's not a foreign concept to me. I think in our case, there's a gap between being okay with just saying you need the strategy. That's the only thing you can buy from us if you don't want it, see you versus the, you can buy our hands and buy hours of our time and we'll just show up and do things, and we're trying to transform that something in the middle of, you do need the good things that we think are good, but we'll also give you a little bit of help. I think that part of it is a little bit unique. Businesses are not set up to work with people like us at all.

Mike (22:39):

That's a thing. They

Mitch (22:39):

Are built to

Mike (22:42):

Consume a commodity

Mitch (22:43):

Or by training for their people. Strategic consultants is typically a, it's not first on people's lists most of the time, and so we're trying to,

Mike (22:57):

No, and what strategic consultants is often reserved for getting ready to sell my business or we're going to acquire another business. What are the moves that we need to make the reorganization that needs to happen, or how can I reorg to boost the share price? That's what it's reserved for. What we're talking about is we're almost in the trenches with people helping them make their organizations better, so it's not that level.

Mitch (23:25):

That reminds me of something that Matt has written about before, which is the fact that a lot of these skills that we talk about are individual skills that need to be built. That changes the culture as a whole. It is not a top down, someone say something and automatically people are better,

Mike (23:45):

Which is why training doesn't solve the

Mitch (23:47):

Problem, right? The

Matt (23:49):

Success of an organization is the culmination of how skilled each person is at the things they're trying to accomplish, and it takes an organization to identify what skills they need and an organization that supports people in learning those skills over a period of time that will be successful

Mike (24:06):

And making sure they're aligned to the organization's goals.

Matt (24:09):

Correct, which is why the organization chooses the skills that are important. If communication and collaboration skills are important, if a particular technical skill is important, they're going to identify what those things that are important and then they need to put in place the tools that will help those people get better at those skills.

Mitch (24:28):

Often we're viewed as either a technology, like IT based cost or a HR cost, and a lot of times all the things that you're talking about helping people grow individually, aligning it with business goals, someone's job already, and so they're like, what do you mean we have this person doing that? Why do we need to hire a team to do their job? And that can be an awkward spot to be in sometimes,

Matt (24:55):

Especially when they come to you, they just say, well, we need an intranet, and that's a challenge, but I can also tell you that most organizations are not thinking about what they should be thinking about related to those things, and the reason is not because they don't have good people, it's because they're people have never experienced the tools that the modern tools that can be brought to bear on the problem. They only know what they know. They don't know the rest of it, and so their approach, strategy to that thing is all based on their experience with other technologies, not based on what you can do today. I think the difference is we have way more experience with a lot of different organizations of a lot of different sizes in how they're using these tools to accomplish their goals. The other thing is it's not always the same.


Some people think even in the concept that we have these strategies that we're trying to package up a little bit, they think, oh, those things are the same for everyone. You're just doing the same thing for everyone. That's not true. It's not one size fits all. Not every organization needs to spend a hundred thousand dollars on intranet. Not everyone needs to spend $75,000 on training for their employees about teams. Not everyone, every organization is different in what they need. I will tell you that every organization needs an intranet. How much they should spend on it and what it should contain is going to vary wildly between different organizations.

Mitch (26:18):

I hope with us sharing this, it one makes us not feel alone or maybe helps you not feel alone and also helps us help you in the end. That's the goal. If there's something that we can do, that's the question. We don't want to be in a box pretending we know everything and just picking what's on top of our list and doing that thing without anyone's influence. This is meant to be to help make others successful. We want that community of people rallying around an idea and pushing something forward and getting some validation along the way is incredibly helpful. If you have bought our guidebook, you have noticed we have been bothering people to get feedback on the guidebook. We want to make it great, we want to make it better,

Matt (27:11):

Or if it's good, we want to do more of the same,

Mitch (27:13):

And it's incredibly hard to just get that feedback loop. So if you have figured out a trick to getting insights and feedback from people, would love to know that one. But yeah, anything else to add before we go?

Matt (27:28):

I think that's it. I mean, like I said, the thing that I want to leave is very much similar to what you said, which is that our goal, we live it every day. We're trying to make people successful. We're trying to make things that will allow people to be successful in what they're doing, and this is an area we feel like we're struggling in, and if there's something that you have an opinion about or if you've thought about contact us in the past and you want to hit us up and have a thought about it, we'd love to hear it.

Mitch (27:57):

No strings attached.

Matt (27:58):

Yeah, no strings attached. Not trying to sell anybody anything in that regard. I'm just trying to understand better how we could help people in that world, right? Yeah. In that space, in that gap between people who really need the strategy all upfront and the people who just need, I need this one problem solved for me,

Mitch (28:16):

I'm going to quit. While we're ahead and say thanks for the conversation today, we'll probably make our next episode a bit more tactical, helping about some. We had one that we almost did today that we want to include Emma in next time, and so we're going to be back with that episode next time. So thanks so much for listening today, and we'll see you guys next time.

Matt (28:39):

Bye bye.

Mitch (28:41):

Hey, thanks for joining us today. If you haven't already subscribed to our show on your favorite podcasting app, so you'll always be up to date on the most recent episodes. This podcast is hosted by the team members of Bulb Digital, and special thanks to Eric Veneman for our music tracks and producing this episode. If you have any questions for us, head to make others successful.com and you can get in touch with us there. You'll also find a lot of blogs and videos and content that will help you modernize your workplace and get the most out of Office 365. Thanks again for listening. We'll see you next time.

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